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Unpublished J.D. Salinger story kept in University library leaked illegally online

A previously unpublished J.D. Salinger story housed in the University’s Firestone Library was illegally made public online on Wednesday, The New York Times reported.

Salinger’s story, “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls,” provides the backstory to his famous 1951 novel "The Catcher in the Rye" by recounting the death of Kenneth Caulfield, the older brother of the novel’s protagonist. It was one of three unpublished Salinger stories held by the University’s library.


The stories were not allowed to be photographed or reproduced in any way.Salinger donated the story with strict terms that they not be published until 50 years after his death. He died in 2010.

The manuscript may have been illegally obtained by a patron who consulted the stories in the University library, according to University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua.

“The story is probably an unauthorized version transcribed longhand in our reading room. It’s also possible that it came from photocopies of the typescript probably made before the mid-1980s when we decided that we would no longer allow photo-duplication of any work by Salinger,” Mbugua said.

The story, along with two other previously unpublished short stories,“Birthday Boy” and “Paula,” were posted on the members-only file-sharing site on Nov. 27.They were later copied across other web platforms, including Reddit.

The leak claimed that the three stories had been published in a run of only 25 copies titled “Three Stories” in London in 1999 and that “The Ocean Full of Bowling Balls” was photocopied from one of the rare copies. The two other stories said to be included in this collection were held by the University of Texas at Austin under similar restrictions.

The University’s Salinger collection also includes the unpublished stories “The Magic Foxhole” and“The Last and Best of the Peter Pans,” which features the character Holden Caulfield, the protagonist of "The Catcher in the Rye."


The story may have been nearing publication even without the online leak. Shane Salerno, the filmmaker who directed the feature-length documentary "Salinger" and wrote its companion biography released earlier this year, said thatfive new books of Salinger’s work would be published between 2015 and 2020, according to instructions given by Salinger himself, The New York Times reported.

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